THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

Health authorities launch successful polio vaccination campaign in Iraq

A coordinated polio vaccination campaign launched in Iraq early last month succeeded in reaching more than 90 percent of children under the age of five, despite ongoing conflict in many parts of the country, according to UNICEF.

The five-day campaign was organized by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

"We are really pleased with the outcome of this campaign," UNICEF Iraq representative Marzio Babille said. "The commitment of the health teams involved-often working in incredibly difficult circumstances-is really to be commended."

Two cases of polio were confirmed in Iraq in February and April, ending a 14-year period during which the country had no polio cases.

Since the beginning of the year, approximately 1.8 million people have been displaced-of whom and estimated 50 percent are children-in Iraq as a result of conflict and violence between government forces and militant fighters of the Islamic State.

During the campaign, however, health organizations were able to use pre-stockpiled vaccines and other supplies to ensure immunization coverage. Children in 14 health districts and 12 Iraqi governorates were vaccinated against polio.

"In a country going through one emergency after another, a successful polio immunization campaign spreads hope that humanitarian work can achieve its goals," Syed Jaffar Hussain, a WHO Iraq representative, said.